18 November 2019
It is a glorious day. There wasn’t cloud in the sky as the sun rose through a horizon, revealing the full spectrum of red, orange and yellow hues. The tops of Skiddaw and the fells above Keswick have a smattering of light snow which seems to highlight even more both the deep blue of the sky and the brown bracken filled lower slopes. The early morning mist hovering above Derwentwater has cleared and the surface of the lake has a glass like stillness. This doesn’t seem though to confuse the ducks landing in formation at the river’s edge.
Borrowdale is known for many things including ancient deposits of some of the purest graphite on earth. There is an interesting article on the mining history of this material in Cumbria Life this month. Keswick Museum is holding free ‘Drawn to the Ground’ workshops next month as part of the ‘Being Human Festival’. At the hotel, we acknowledged this local link through naming our bar ‘The Graphite Bar’ and having Derwent pencils available for those budding artists amongst our guests, to use to express their creativity. Maybe someone will draw a stag or deer which have become more common in the fells around the hotel, and even occasionally in the hotel grounds, at this rutting time of year.
The autumnul colours are in full flow now. In the hotel grounds the golden leafs fall from the trees and are collected to make leaf mould which will be used as mulch for various parts of the garden next spring. It is a time also to gather in the geraniums and hanging baskets, cut the ferns and evergreen shrubs and trim the leylandii hedges bordering the crevice garden. Across the Borrowdale valley the bracken on the fells below Maiden Moor has turned a rusty iron colour. It is very mild today with barely a breath of wind. The surface waters of Derwentwater, not surprisingly, have a rare stillness. Pleasant bird song punctuates this peaceful scene with curious robins taking an active interest in the activity around the grounds.
The mornings have been quite crisp these past few days, but the afternoons in Borrowdale have been warm and sunny under clear blue skies. People are out everywhere enjoying themselves, walking in the fells above Derwentwater or even trying out the new ladder that the National Trust has recently installed at the nearby Bowder Stone. In the hotel garden, the lime coloured leaves of the full grown Tulip Tree provide a contrast to the darker greens of the surrounding trees. A nut hatch sweeps back and forth from these trees to visit the bird feeders, where it competes with the blue tits, great tits and the occasional red squirrel.
August is usually a month of variable weather in this part of the Lake District. This year is no exception. It is bright and sunny in Borrowdale today but yesterday it was wet and cold. Lake Derwentwater’s levels are high following the recent heavy rain and this restricted walking access across to Brandlehow. However, as the water levels recede, the footpath is revealed once again and walks from our side of the valley to the boardwalk on the other side offer stunning views, particularly north towards Skiddaw, which sits majestically above Keswick. Once across the other side of the lake there are plenty of walking options for a good day out: up high to Catbells and Maiden Moor; turn right to go around the lake or turn left to Grange and back to the hotel. Whichever route is taken, there are the first early signs that the greenery of summer is making way for a more autumnal palette.
2 August 2019
We have no records of who designed the garden at the hotel. It seems though a reasonable deduction that it was designed by either Thomas Hayton Mawson, the late Victorian landscape architect, or by someone very much influenced by his ideas. Mawson’s design hallmarks combined architectural features with planting. The Leathes Head was built in the early 1900s and its gardens were first laid out at that time. Many of the features of our hotel garden mirror other gardens of that era across the Lake District, such as Graythwaite Hall, TH Mawson’s first commission. Another fine example of his work is at Holehird, near Windermere, home now to the Lakeland Horticultural Society. In terms of architectural elements, many of these gardens include crenellated tops of garden walls and fine terracing, both of which can be found in our garden. And as for plants, Mawson’s gardens often incorporated an arboretum and a wide variety of plants, particularly those suited to environments with large amounts of rainfall – and it doesn’t get much wetter than in Borrowdale! It is a joy to wander around the garden regardless of season, and to appreciate the design considerations that produced it and we do our best to sustain them.